TAX RETURNS Robert Lopez
It was yesterday when they shot him outside his home. It was still dark out and it was raining and all the neighbors were getting ready for work and they shot him in front of everybody.
They’d followed him all night from the restaurant to the bar to the skating rink to the hotel and then back home. This is when they ambushed him. They rushed out of their car when they saw him emerge from his limousine and shot him twelve times in the back.
It was now morning and it was still dark and the rain made the sidewalk slick and dangerous and two people slipped and fell and injured themselves but this was before they shot him so no one remembers that two people got hurt that morning by falling on the sidewalk.
It was one hundred years ago when they shot him yesterday outside his home in New York City. People were getting ready for work as it was a workday and this one had a meeting and that one had a presentation and this other one had a route and that other one had a double-shift at the plant but it was going to be time and a half.
It was outside his building. It was early.
This is the same building where all the neighbors lived and where two of them fell on the sidewalk because it was raining. One of them wound up in the same hospital they later brought him to after he was shot.
This one, the one who wound up in the same hospital, he needed four stitches for the gash on his forehead. The scar was something this one would talk about for the rest of his life, always in relation to how it was the same morning of the shooting.
All of the neighbors are decent people who work honest jobs. Almost every neighbor files a tax return, though some take extensions and others forget altogether and a year or two later they are audited and it’s a disaster as they don’t keep records or receipts and no one knows what to do about it.
Some of the neighbors have tuberculosis and others have shingles or scurvy or rickets and still others suffer from all manner of troubling ailments and afflictions, but the two people who fell that morning are fine now.
It was early in the morning and in front of all the neighbors when they shot him outside in the rain. One of the neighbors was a woman named Benjamin. Everyone thought it strange that there was a woman named Benjamin and that she worked for the railroad and if she wasn’t famous for her paella then she was famous for knitting Afghans and that she coughed all the time.
When people talked about Benjamin they talked about her paella and her Afghans and that her name was Benjamin and that she coughed all the time.
Benjamin was also the one who called for the ambulance after the shooting and she was the one who was interviewed on television about what she saw, which was everything.
She saw the ambush and the shooting and how he crumpled and staggered and fell to the ground.
I wasn’t the one who shot him and I wasn’t one who slipped and fell on the sidewalk.
I wasn’t the one who shot him yesterday outside his home in New York City and I wasn’t the one who got audited a year later after failing to file a tax return. But it was me who shot him.
I’m not saying I was the one who shot him yesterday outside his home but it was me who shot him one hundred years ago. It was in the evening time or it was early morning because it was dark out. All the neighbors were outside eating paella in the rain or getting ready for work or falling down on the sidewalk.
It was all of us who shot him yesterday outside his home in New York City one hundred years ago. It was every person that ever lived that shot him.
There are sick people living in this building.
I’ve never met a woman named Benjamin, but my grandmother knitted Afghans and there’s a photograph of me as an infant in which I appear to be asleep with one draped all over me.
ROBERT LOPEZ is the author of several books of fiction and the forthcoming Dispatches From Puerto Nowhere, to be published by Two Dollar Radio in March, 2023. He teaches at Stony Brook University.